Long School of Medicine

A Wake Up Call About Melatonin and Healthier Sleep Habits with Dr. Karen Hentschel-Franks

Holly Wayment

Health Information for the busy parent in 10 minutes or less.

Host Holly Wayment, Physician Relations Specialist Sr., talks to leading pediatric experts in the field.

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Host Holly Wayment talks with the esteemed Dr. Karen Hentschel-Franks, a fellow at the Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, for a candid discussion on the rampant use of melatonin as a sleep aid. Drawing attention to the shocking 11,000 recorded incidents of children visiting the ER due to accidental overdoses, this episode serves as a crucial wakeup call for parents everywhere.

Despite being a naturally-occurring hormone, melatonin's usage as an over-the-counter supplement for inducing sleep gives rise to challenges due to its lack of FDA regulation. This leads to potential inconsistencies in composition, dosage recommendations, and possible overdose symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and irritability.

Dr. Franks highlights a significant knowledge gap amongst parents regarding melatonin's proper dosage, given the absence of standard guidelines for different ages and weights. This could result in unintentional overdoses in children, hence she suggests parents to specifically seek ‘USP Verified’ Melatonin products for safety and accuracy. 

Our conversation also touches upon the critical aspect of long-term effects and the importance of ‘sleep hygiene,’ which are beneficial habits designed to encourage healthier sleep patterns. She details her approach in practice, which emphasizes on behavioral interventions and sleep hygiene over medication. She provides compelling advice and alternatives for combating dependence on melatonin while promoting a more relaxed bedtime mindset.

In addition to providing insights into melatonin use and misuse, Dr. Franks underscores the importance of a positive pre-sleep routine for children. She uses real-life examples to reveal the value of positive reinforcement and the caregiver’s role in creating a healthy bedtime routine.

The episode concludes with practical advice for parents implemented by Dr. Franks herself, focusing on promoting natural sleep over relying on sleep aids like melatonin. This inspiring conversation provides a valuable perspective on improving children's sleep through behavioral measures and healthier lifestyle habits.